New details reveal stealthy, professional hit on Hamas terror leader
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New details reveal stealthy, professional hit on Hamas terror leader

Killers reportedly lay in wait in Mazen Faqha's garage, acted so quietly family nearby didn't know what had happened for hours

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

The gunmen who killed Hamas military leader Mazen Faqha Friday night had broken into his garage, and lain in wait for hours, before carrying out the assassination, which left no trace but the dead body, a Palestinian daily reported on Sunday.

According to the report in Al Quds, Faqha — a former prisoner in Israel who oversaw Hamas’s efforts to instigate terror attacks in the West Bank — drove home around 6 p.m., with his wife and daughter in the car.

They had been away from home for a few hours. The two family members exited the car at the front door, and the Hamas leader went to park the car alone.

He was killed almost immediately after the electric garage door closed behind his vehicle.

Earlier reports said Faqha was killed outside his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City.

Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)
Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)

The gunmen used weapons equipped with silencers, and shot him four times, Sunday’s report said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra, said on Friday that Faqha had been shot in the head, and later added he had been shot “from point-blank range.”

An hour and a half passed before Faqha’s corpse was found by one of the residents of his apartment tower, the Al Quds report said.

“It all happened quietly,” his wife told the Turkish Anadolu agency on Sunday. “When he tarried [after leaving to park the car], I didn’t worry. I thought he was talking to the neighbors. The news of his death came as a surprise.”

Hamas security forces quickly arrived at the scene of the assassination and checked security cameras, according to the Al Quds report, but so far have been unable to identify the killers.

The report added that one of the building’s doors, which is usually kept locked, was found open on the night of the attack.

The body of Hamas official Mazen Faqha is carried by members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, during his funeral in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
The body of Hamas official Mazen Faqha is carried by members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, during his funeral in Gaza city on March 25, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

The report speculated that the killers had intimate knowledge of Faqha’s whereabouts and the building he lived in, and knew exactly where they would find him alone. They also carried out the killing in a secluded area, giving them plenty of time to escape.

The London-based pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat reported on Sunday there were assessments that the gunmen had both arrived to and fled from the Strip by sea.

Israel did not claim responsibility for the killing of Faqha, but Hamas leaders have pointed to the professionalism of the killing as proof of Israel’s involvement.

“This assassination has the clear marks of the Mossad,” Hamas’s Gaza Attorney General Ismail Jaber said, referring to Israel’s foreign spy service.

On Friday, Hamas leaders lined up immediately to point the finger at Israel.

Khalil al-Haya, a deputy to Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, promised retaliation.

“If the enemy thinks that this assassination will change the power balance, then it should know the minds of [Hamas] will be able to retaliate in kind,” he said on Sunday.

At a mass funeral procession for Faqha Saturday afternoon in Gaza City, participants chanted, “Revenge, revenge!”

Faqha’s father, who lives in the West Bank, told a Hamas TV station that Israeli intelligence officers had warned the family three times that his son’s terrorist activity was going to get him killed. “They said Mazen was carrying out attacks against Israel, and that Israel’s arm is long,” he said.

The father and relatives of Mazen Faqha, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip a day earlier, sit at a gathering to watch his funeral on tv at their home in the West Bank village of Tubas on March 25, 2017. (AFP / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)
The father and relatives of Mazen Faqha, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the Gaza Strip a day earlier, sit at a gathering to watch his funeral on tv at their home in the West Bank village of Tubas on March 25, 2017. (AFP / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

Faqha hailed from the northern West Bank town of Tubas, where he was arrested in 2002 for terrorism during the Second Intifada. He was serving multiple life times for orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing in which nine Israelis were killed. He was released in October 2011 in the prisoner swap for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and expelled to Gaza, where he and fellow West Banker Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat founded the “West Bank section” within the Gaza-based group.

According to Israeli intelligence, Faqha and Ghanimat’s “fingerprints” were on many attempted and successful terror attacks emanating from Hamas cells in the West Bank in recent years.

Hamas shut the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday “until further notice,” while it is investigating the killing of Faqha.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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